Universal Standard is f$%#ing tired of a few things: being impacted by the hit Meta dealt with the new iOS privacy changes, internet trolls and, most importantly, having its brand and clients’ needs being othered and excluded from the conversation by the fashion industry.
The clothing brand, which revolutionized size democratization by offering every style in sizes ranging from 00 to 40 since its inception seven years ago, recently launched its first-ever out-of-home campaign after mostly relying on a digital-first strategy through the social media network to reach new customers.
The campaign, provocatively titled “Our Clothes F$%#ing Fit,” aims to make a statement to the industry and the world that everyone deserves to be seen, celebrated and accommodated as they are. It also looks to eschew the “lofty language used in fashion advertising,” along with labels and categories such as “plus-sized.”
“Everyone deserves access to exceptional clothing, whether a size 8 or a size 38,” Tracy Heller, chief commercial officer of Universal Standard, told Adweek. “For so long, the fashion industry has excluded the majority of the population who wear above a size 14, prohibiting them from participating in the joy of fashion and instead creating an environment that fosters frustration and stress. Fashion shouldn’t be exhausting. It should be fun.”
Describing the tagline as a “rallying cry,” she added, “From fashion advertisements to changing rooms, where so many people have uttered the words, ‘F this,’ ‘WTF’ or, ‘Nothing f$%#ing fits,’ this campaign channels those sentiments and reverses them with an explicit promise from us—anybody can shop at Universal Standard and feel confident that the clothes they love are made in their size and fit really well. They never have to compromise.”
In other words, “‘Our Clothes F$%#ing Fit’ is our way of saying, ‘We see you; we value you and we respect you.’ Fashion is for all of us, as we are,” Heller said.
She noted the campaign was inspired by the brand’s customers after receiving “thousands of letters from passionate customers expressing their frustration with and exclusion from the fashion industry,” noting many expressed gratitude and emotion from having access to high quality clothing that fit them.
“For many of our customers, shopping with Universal Standard was the first time they have felt seen by the fashion industry,” Heller said. “‘Our Clothes F$%#ing Fit’ targets any person who has experienced an emotional response in reaction to a negative shopping experience—an experience that our customer insights tell us is universal.”
The brand deployed truck wraps and digital billboards in two of their key markets—Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia—and purchased spots on iHeartRadio. Additionally, it partnered with Nashville- and Atlanta-based influencers and other “like-minded content creators with national reach” to engage with the community and “spark a dialogue that celebrates inclusivity and quell the negative social chatter with unwavering respect and direct communication.”
Finding a (new) marketing strategy that fits
According to Heller, part of the brand’s strategy for the campaign is to experiment with different marketing approaches it had not previously explored.
“By combining out-of-home with digital retargeting, we will be able to understand how many times a customer needs to see our message specifically before converting,” she said. “Instead of launching these strategies in major cities like New York or Los Angeles, we decided to activate in two smaller but important markets … this also allows us to gauge the impact of this strategy by measuring both conversions from those audiences as well as the halo effect on that market against those markets not receiving that advertising treatment.”
With brands like Eloquii and Torrid—both of which are categorized as plus-sized fashion brands—making their entry into linear and streaming advertising earlier this year, airing during awards shows and appointment-viewing tentpoles such as This Is Us, Universal Standard’s strategy would initially appear limiting in scope to any marketer seeking instant gratification.
However, Heller insists it is the opposite and was eager to make the distinction to set the brands apart beyond their respective marketing approaches.
“Universal Standard is disrupting the industry, pushing for a cultural shift—one that does not distinguish by labels like ‘plus-sized’ or ‘straight-sized,’ because by offering a limited number of select styles in a specialty category, brands still ‘other’ certain shoppers,” she said. “What we want is a new shopping model that allows all sizes to shop in the same way, which is why we offer every style in all sizes, 00 to 40.”
Heller went on to say the campaign reflects this approach by renouncing popular fashion advertising archetypes, like arbitrary creative and lofty language.
“The execution of the campaign is disruptive in that it breathes new life into old-school advertising,” she said. “While out-of-home has been around forever, we are partnering with new technology companies that allow us to retarget consumers who have been in proximity to our installments. The opportunity to build two to three new customer touch points at the top of the funnel using offline and online is exciting, knowing a person typically needs visibility to five to seven brand touch points before deciding to convert. This is an interesting test for us—one that will help to inform the 2023 strategy.”
Not (yet) the standard
In addition to offering a full-size range of every style it sells, Universal Standard also offers Fit Liberty, which allows customers who fluctuate in size over time to swap out their styles to accommodate their size change. The company has also recently launched an intimate line, UltimateS, and a 100% cashmere line that retails for under $100.
Its effort to push the needle forward in the industry has also included collaborations with Goop, Adidas, J. Crew, Erdem, Rodarte and others to create size-inclusive collections.